Pass the sermon
'OVER 100 YEARS AGO it was D.L. Moody of Chicago who said, “If you have got a sermon that is good for anything at all, pass it around!”
This is basically what a number of us Christian preachers are attempting here in The Sermon.' Richard Bewes
While there are a lot of sermons online, most of them are pretty hard to find, unless you happen to know who all the best Christian speakers are.
‘The Sermon’, a new website launched recently, aims to provide one place to go to for good sermons by proven preachers. There are still only a few online, but do keep an eye on it as the collection grows. The speakers are certainly worth listening to! The site uses video rather than audio, which is great for those who need a bit more to hold their attention.
This is a really helpful site for those in our churches who would like to listen to helpful sermons, but who don't know where to look.
Of course, there are a few other places doing this. One of the best is The Gospel Coalition website, with its almost awe-inspiring sermon collection. If you do want something on a particular passage, they probably have it.
And of course there are a good few sermons on our own website…
In the long run, perhaps we can pray that websites sharing good preaching by a number of people will help mitigate the cult of the celebrity preacher. Famous men are used to bless us, but help finding good sermons that aren't recommended by fame is surely a good thing.
Perhaps that will help us concentrate less on the preacher’s name and following, and more on the word being preached.
An interesting addendum to my post on the NIV update. The Greek word sarx was originally translated "sinful nature" in the NIV. Now, in the update, it has become "flesh" again.
Hand of Moo – updated NIV launched this week
The long awaited update to the NIV is launched this week on BibleGateway. You'll have to wait until Spring 2011 for printed copies – but the online version gives you a chance to browse and read the translators notes and see a video from chair of translation committee Doug Moo. It's comforting to know that this project has been in his hands – he's a safe and thorough Bible scholar (and will be speaking at one of 2012 conferences!).
I went straight to the passage I've been studying to see if I could spot the hand of Moo. The original NIV for Colossians 3.16-17 reads:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Moo, in his Pillar commentary on Colossians, makes it clear that he thinks this is a less-than-the-best translation. And so it is perhaps no surprise that the updated NIV (what do we call it?) reads thus:
16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Not surprisingly, most people will be holding their breath to discover what line the updated NIV has taken on gender-inclusive language, given that this was the ONE issue that marked the short life of the TNIV. There is a long section in the translators' notes on this. Basically, "almost nothing has changed in the translation of the majority of these texts from the 1984 NIV to the updated NIV. But the careful reader will notice a few differences." These are outlined in the translator's notes.
My favourite English translation is still the Holman Christian Standard, but perhaps an NIV update might make it redundant? Only time (and a good read) will tell. There's a detailed interview with Doug Moo with some interesting insights here.
OK, so it’s pretentious, but it’s true
Pretentious, moi? I try to be a down to earth kind of bloke. After all, I grew up in Essex, went to a state school and can't speak Latin. But I do love Opera. Sorry, but there you are.
And it was this love that took the whole famille Reynolds to Glyndebourne last week. This is the first outing for the three likel Reynolds' girls (aged, 15, 13 and 6) to a live opera. We went to see Cinderella (or, rather, La Cenerentola by Rossni) starring a magnificent Jonathan Viera (Christian and active participant in last Easter's Passion for Life). It was truly wonderful.
Here's the relevant bit! We went to a children's workshop for an hour before the opera. It was incredible what a difference it made!
- They explained the overall plot so that we could understand where we were at any point and what was going on.
- They explained how this story was different from those we might have heard (no fairy godmother or glass slipper) so that we wouldn't be confused by things we expected to see.
- They showed very carefully how the genre of opera needs to be understood – it's not just theatre, it's operatic theatre (and half the reason why it takes 35 minutes to say "I've lost my shoe" – or in this case "I've lost my bangle")
It made me think of the value of teaching our people Bible overviews: so that they can see where they are and how things fit together. It made me realise the value of teaching our people to avoid common errors. There is no glass slipper. It made me appreciate the value of teaching our people to understand that the Bible contains different kinds of writing – don't expect the same from narrative that you do from song and so on.
My kids' workshop helped me enjoy the opera so much more. Some basic Bible handling skills can help our people enjoy sermons and Bible reading heaps more. And I know which is more significant.
The gospel that works
‘It is difficult in many cultures to find ways to preach the cross. But we have to find ways, no matter how hard it is, because if it is difficult to do it with words, it is impossible to do it without words.’
The apologist Michael Ramsden is less well know than – at least in our circles – than the other speakers we have posted on this week. Unlike the others, he hasn’t ever spoken at our conferences. But if you do ever get a chance to listen to him, take it!
The two videos below are short, with less content than Michael usually gives, but they are a wonderful encouragement to preach the gospel. Whatever it costs, however hard it seems, preach the gospel.
And that is what we, at PT, are about.
‘The gospel is not about me – we are not asking people to accept us. With humility, with dependence on God, with dependence on the Spirit, with a clarity from his word, and a conviction in our hearts, we preach Christ Crucified. We ask people to accept him.’
God displays the glory of the cross through suffering and prayer
‘there isn’t anything greater that can be said about this reality in this room, called the church, and all over the world. there isn’t anything greater that can be said about the global church of Jesus but that through the death of the messiah God has created a people in whom he means for his infinite wisdom to be manifest to the cosmic powers of evil.’
If you are looking for light entertainment, don’t watch John Piper’s contribution to the Lausanne Congress. His exposition was both painful and powerful.
In the first video (see below) he shows the three ‘scenes’ that Paul shows in Ephesians 3:
It is the great, sovereign, cosmic, purpose of God to make known purpose of his wisdom to demonic powers of the universe.
God has chosen that some of his servants be imprisoned as a way of bringing about his cosmic purpose – gathering a people through the suffering of the church’s missionaries and ministers.
God has chosen that the supernatural power required to see the glory of his wisdom and to suffer for his name comes to us through earnest prayer.
It is in the second half that he pulls this together. He shows the awful lostness of humanity; this part made me want to weep. He shows us a Christ who saves us. He shows the power of Christian witness has, when we are willing to give up comfort and freedom to draw others into the unsearchable riches of Christ. Finally we see how God’s power through prayer changes our hearts so that we are willing. Challenging stuff!
‘Here we stand, we can (still) do no other’
'At first sight biblical view of truth is obscene to modern minds – it’s arrogant, it’s exclusive, it’s intolerant, it’s divisive, it’s judgemental, and it’s reactionary. But on a deeper look, the biblical view is timely and urgent for today.'
Os Guinness gave a really stirring call to hold on to a strong view of truth at the Lausanne Congress last week. Not only does our faith that there is a God hang in the balance, but also our understanding of what he is like. He is the truthful, faithful God.
He gave six reasons why truth matters, and why Christians who are careless about the truth are dangerous:
- Only a high view of truth honours the God of truth.
- Only a high view of truth reflects how we come to know and love God.
- Only a high view of truth empowers our best human enterprises.
- Only a high view of truth can undergird our proclamation and defence of the faith
- Only a high view of truth is sufficient to for combating evil and hypocrisy
- Only a high view of truth will help our growth and transformation in Christ.
I think that most of us understand the importance of truth for apologetics and belief. What Os drove home to me was just how much truth matters in every human endeavour: everything good we do is under-girded by truth, and a weak understanding of truth destroys our ability to oppose evil, which always covers itself up with lies.
Here's the video – those using rss reader may have to click through to view it:
The Great Ministry of Reconciliation
How do we make sure that the church lives out its calling, as a sign of God's plan to bring a broken world back together? That was the subject of Vaughan Robert's (our president!) Bible Exposition, of Ephesians 4:1-16, at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation . It is a compelling message, showing us how unity isn't a vague, hand-waving, affair but a reality worked out by word gifts that feed every-member ministry and builds our churches to maturity.
Rather nicely for us, Vaughan's message manages to really convey all that we at PT are about, without ever mentioning it or doing anything but a clear exposition of Paul's words. Here's a taster:
‘but this is the great ministry of reconciliation by which God brings people to Christ and matures people in Christ. And as the word of God goes out by the spirit we will find our churches growing, our unity deepening, and more and more, God willing, people will say ‘look how those Christians love one another’, and they will see a foretaste of the great unity of all things: when God is all in all, Christ brings everything together in him, and when at last the world will truly be as one.’
And here's the real thing, at least for those who can put up with Vaughan's luminous background:
10 books on preaching you may not have seen
Here are 10 stimulating books (which does not mean we agree with everything in them!) on preaching. So often, when it comes to preaching, the standard books are bandied around. But here are 10 you may not have seen:
- The glory of preaching by Darrell Johnson – a really good biblical justification of preaching, although with a weaker second half of practical application, stuff which you may have seen before
- Preaching with spiritual vigour by Murray Capill – lessons on preaching from the life of Richard Baxter
- Feed my sheep edited by Don Kistler – a great collection of essays on preaching from Mohler, Boice, Thomas, Beeke, Sproul – all the usual suspects. One of the best all round multi author books on preaching.
- Preaching and biblical theology by Ed Clowney – a great attempt early on to square what some saw as opposing forces. No longer in print, but second hand copies around.
- Princeton and preaching by James Garretson – an appreciation of one of Princeton's finest preachers Archibald Alexander. Heavily endorsed by Packer – good rich stuff.
- He is not silent – by Al Mohler – a simple justification of preaching in a post modern world
- Him we proclaim by Dennis Johnson – a call to apostolic preaching = preaching like the apostles. Challenging and helpful.
- Preaching with variety by Jeffrey Arthurs – one of my favourite books on preaching. Preach according to the genre!
- Preaching Christ in all the Scriptures by Ed Clowney – practical advice and sample sermons from the great preacher and theologian
- The art and craft of biblical preaching edited by Haddon Robinson – a huge collection of essays on preaching, some good, some not so. Rich vein though with contributions from our own David Jackman and Dick Lucas alongside many, many greats
More like this:
God 1, Enemies 0
Really moved reading Zechariah yesterday (which we are preaching through at church). I've got three sermons to prepare from later on in the series and I'm working through the book in my devotions. Here's yesterday's passage:
And I lifted my eyes and saw, behold, four horns! And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" And he said to me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem." Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. And I said, "What are these coming to do?" He said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it. (Zecharaiah 1.18-21)
Zechariah is speaking to beleagured exiles who have returned home and given up on temple building (Ezra 5) because of the opposition around them (Ezra 4). This remarkable vision paints a picture of what has been going on in the world. The four hours (four probably just means complete, like the four winds) have been strong against the people of God and have brought them to this place, where, it seems, it is God 0 Enemies 1. That's the half time score.
But the vision encourages them with news that it is not the full time score. The full time score is God 1, Enemies 0. Or, more realistically, God 10, Enemies 0.
And how is this certain turnaround victory going to happen? God is going to send a complete set of craftsmen. Not warriors. Not generals. Not armies. Not canon fodder.
They are not identified, though their role is. And, significantly, "craftsman" is the term used of the specialist builders of both the temple and the tabernacle. God defeats his strong enemies in battle through building. What a purple passage! What encouragement for everyone who is working on the great building project that is the church.
God 1, Enemies 0.